Any number of new technologies could be called “life changing,” and we’ve written about a number of them – from “green monitors” in July 2009 to “wireless everything” a week or two ago.
For this holiday of thanks, we’d like to remind you how far we’ve come since the modern home computer era began in earnest in the early 1980s. If this doesn’t make you grateful for progress, nothing will!
First IBM desktop computers
IBM joined the home computer race in 1981, when it was dominated by small players like Commodore and Atari, by introducing the IBM 5150 PC. It used a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor, had 16KB of base memory and ran PC-DOS. It cost $1,600 for the base model, which sounded good compared to some competitors. But as Apple ads would soon point out, all the “good stuff” cost extra – floppy drives, more RAM, the OS, the software, etc.
The “grand-daddy” of all laptops
GRiD Systems Corporation pioneered many new technologies, including portable computing with its 1982 Compass 1101. This has been called the “grand-daddy of all present-day laptop computers,” although Adam Osborne may not agree. It had 256K of RAM, an 8086 Intel processor, a small 320 x 240 pixel screen and 384K of internal bubble memory that could store data after the power was turned off. It cost over $8,000. Today, you can get a new netbook with 2,000 times more RAM for about $200.
The first computer “for the rest of us”
The original Macintosh, released in 1984, had 128K of RAM, a single 400K floppy drive, no hard drive or way to connect one, two programs (MacWrite and MacPaint) and cost over $2,000. For about $1100, you can buy today’s entry-level iMac with features unimaginable to the mid-1980′s technology consumer.
The first successful laser printer
The first LaserWriter from Apple, released in 1985, was priced at $6995. Toner cartridges could cost as much as $150. You can buy a good black & white laser printer today for about $100, and a color one for under $200.
The first consumer-level inkjet printer
By 1976, the inkjet printer had been invented, but the few manufacturers making them sold the devices at very high prices to Fortune 500 firms. It wasn’t until 1988 that the inkjet printer matured into a consumer item, with Hewlett-Packard debuting its DeskJet model for a whopping $1,000.